The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: Wayne Johnston’s Newfoundland Conversion Narrative


The Colony of Unrequited Dreams is not merely the tale of Joey Smallwood’s rise to power in Newfoundland. It is also about the power of a single book—D.W. Prowse’s A History of Newfoundland—to influence the destiny of an individual and the people he came to represent. The influence of Prowse’s History extends also to Colony itself, because the novel’s use of the conversion theme to depict the ways that Smallwood and Newfoundland transformed themselves in the twentieth century may be grounded in that book’s popularization of the myth of a flourishing Puritanism in 17th-century Newfoundland. A number of Johnston’s critics have complained that his book is not true enough to the historical record. Ironically, although the novel’s conversion theme may have been suggested by an historical inaccuracy promulgated by Prowse, it provides an ideal means of representing Newfoundland’s partial transformation from a colonial outpost to a Canadian one.

This article “The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: Wayne Johnston’s Newfoundland Conversion Narrative” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 206 (Autumn 2010): 13-28.

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